History of Air Conditioning

History of Air Conditioners
History of Air Conditioners

As an air conditioner enthusiast I’m fascinated by the way air conditioning has evolved throughout the years. In this article, I will try to give you a brief overview of the history of refrigeration and air conditioners .

Ding Huan
Ding Huan

The beginning of “cooling” a.k.a. “air conditioning”

Air conditioning actually began in China around the second Century where a local inventor named Ding Huan created a manual rotary fan to cool things off.

The First Air Conditioner

The ‘thanks’ for setting pathway to modern air conditioning goes to “inventer of everything” Benjamin Franklin. Ben conducted experiments with alcohol  and how/when things evaporate and was able to attend freezing temperatures.

Benjamin Franklin - Air Conditioning
Benjamin Franklin

However, the the first modern air conditioner was invented by Willis Haviland Carrier.

Willis Haviland Carrier - Father of Air Conditioner
Willis Haviland Carrier – Father of Air Conditioner

Willis was a skilled engineer.  In an effort to solve an application problem at a printing Warehouse in Brooklyn he began experimenting with humidity control. He based his work on the mechanical Refrigeration Concepts which was developed in previous years. Carrier devise a system which sent air through coils filled with cold water. The flow of cold water cooled  the air and removed moisture at the same time.

Willis Carrier - Inventor of Modern Air Conditioner
Willis Carrier – Inventor of Modern Air Conditioner

Willis established a company called the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America which developed the first version of the modern air conditioner in 1933. For his contributions, Willis Haviland carrier is designated as the Father of Air Conditioner.

Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America
Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America

While basic principles stay the same, today’s air conditioners are made more efficient by advancements in  air compression, sensors, materials, controls and energy requirement.

The standards set by the US Department of energy also helps drive the progress of modern air conditioning systems.

Furthermore today’s innovation, smart technologies and automation have helped further improved efficiency and efficacy air conditioning systems.

Smart Air Conditioner
Smart Air Conditioner

History of Air Conditioning: A Timeline

Here is a timeline of the history of modern air conditioning, starting from all the way back in 1758 when Benjamin Franklin discovered how to freeze water to the invention of modern air conditioning systems that we use today.

1758

John Hadley worked with Ben Franklin on a series of  air conditioning eperiments in 1758.
John Hadley worked with Ben Franklin on a series of air conditioning experiments.

Benjamin Franklin of the United States and John Hadley of the Cambridge University in UK work on on a series of experiments to investigate latent heat. They discover how to cool down a substance and make it cold enough to freeze water. Define that evaporation of volatile liquids such as alcohol that evaporate faster than water will cool down an object to make it freezing cold.

1820

Michael Faraday - English Scientist
Michael Faraday – English Scientist

Michael Faraday, an inventor from England discovers that he can cool down an object enough to freeze water when he compresses and liquefies ammonia.

1830

Dr. John Gorrie's Ice Making Machine
Dr. John Gorrie’s Ice Making Machine

Dr. John Gorrie  invented the ice making machine. At a hospital in Florida, where he worked as a doctor, he useD compression to create ice and blew air over ice to create a cooling effect. Imagining he’s onto something he patented the idea in 1851.  However his dream of cooling the world with his invention did not come to fruition when he failed to secure ample financial backing.

1902

Willis Carrier - A/C Inventor
Willis Carrier – A/C Inventor

As we mentioned above,  Willis Carrier invented the first modern air conditioning device. He invented the device for cooling air for a printing company called Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing  and Publishing company in Brooklyn, New York. Carrier then went on to create a company called the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America with the goal of helping cool other factories throughout the nation. Because of his significant contribution toward the invention of the modern air conditioning device, he is now known as the Father of Air Conditioner.

1906

Stuart Cramer - Pioneered advances in textile mill air conditioning.
Stuart Cramer – Pioneered advances in textile mill air conditioning.

A textile mill engineer name Stuart Cramer of North Carolina invented a device that added humidity to the air inside textile plants. This addition of water vapor do the air, which in turn, made air more humid made yarn stronger and easier to spin. He coined the term “air conditioning” to describe this process during a speech in Asheville on May 7th, 1906.

1914

Charles Gates of Minneapolis- The first person to own a home with Air Conditioner
Charles Gates – The first person to own a home with Air Conditioner

Charles Gates, a Minneapolis mogul becomes the first person to install an air conditioning device in his home for the first time. The air conditioning unit used in his mansion was it about 20 ft long and 7 ft high.

1931

 H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman  invented the first window air conditioner.
H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman invented the first window air conditioner.

The credit to inventing window air conditioner that are so prevalent today goes to H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman. When these window units first went on sale, they were quite expensive, costing upwards of tens of thousands of dollars and only the wealthy could afford them.

1939

Packard invents car that is equipped with an air conditioner (A/C)
Packard invents car that is equipped with an air conditioner (A/C)

Air conditioning system makes its way into a car for the first time. Packard invents a car that is equipped with an air conditioner (A/C). However every time the car gets too cold, the driver must stop the car and manually disconnect the compressor belt to disengage the air conditioning system.  Despite this cumbersome process, people are now able to drive longer distances in scorching heat.

1942

Riverside Generating Station - Built in 1942 to handle growing electricity needs during summer because of high A/C usage.
Riverside Generating Station – Built in 1942 to handle growing electricity needs during summer because of high A/C usage.

Growing usage of  air conditioning demands a greater electrical load. The US creates the first Power Plant, Riverside Generating Station, designed specifically to handle the “summer peaking load” of ever-expanding air conditioning installations and use during hot summer months. In 1942, the 60 MW steam turbine and boiler Unit 1 was installed at a cost of US$6.5 million.

1947

Sir Sydney Frank Markham - British Scholar
Sir Sydney Frank Markham – British Scholar

S.F. Markham, a British scholar declares in one of his articles  that air conditioning is the greatest contribution to civilization in this century. He wrote: “The greatest contribution to civilization in this century may well be air-conditioning — and America leads the way.” Interestingly, by 1980, the United States was consuming more air conditioning than all other countries combined, despite having only 5% of the world’s population.

1953

One million homes have A/C in 1953.
One million homes have A/C in 1953.

The number of home air conditioning units in America reaches 1 million.

1970

Central Air Conditioning System in now a preferred method of cooling homes.
Central Air Conditioning System in now a preferred method of cooling homes.

Window units lose their reign as the preferred method of home cooling devices as central air conditioning takes over.  Cool air is blasted throughout the strategically located vents in the house to cool down the whole house more efficiently. Freon is used as the main refrigerant.

1994

Refrigerant 134a for Auto Air Conditioning
Refrigerant 134a for Auto Air Conditioning

Auto manufacturers are required to stop using Freon as the refrigerant in cars. By 1996, auto manufacturers were required use the less harmful refrigerant called R134a.  Freon is also banned in several countries including the United States for their harmful effects on ozone layer.

2010+

Smart Air Conditioner
Smart Air Conditioner

Air conditioning units take advantage of  Wi-Fi and Smart Technologies to become smarter, cheaper and more efficient.

Patrick Cooper

Patrick has over a decade’s experience writing about consumer electronics on the web. An avid traveller, he is the father of two adopted pitbulls and a greyhound. Cheif editor at WhatRocksAndWhatSucks.com, right now Patrick lives in Austin, TX. Reach him at patrick@wraws.com.